Chevy chose September 22—the autumnal equinox—to unveil the day’s namesake compact crossover, which will go on sale next spring as a 2018 model. Last renewed on the Theta/GMT191 platform for 2010, this new model ashcans that architecture entirely, making the switch to a new D2 toolkit most closely related to the new Chinese-built Buick Envision. Also new are a 1.5-liter turbo-four base engine, a (new to North America) 1.6-liter turbodiesel-four, and a GM-designed nine-speed automatic transmission. The latter will, at least initially, come paired only with the top-performing 2.0-liter turbo-four, which is shared with cars such as the Camaro,Cadillac ATS, and Buick Regal. Sorry, the V-6 is kaput, and for now the other engines pair with a six-speed automatic.
Let’s start with the body. As with practically every new car, it’s lighter and stiffer thanks to expanded use of fancy high-strength steel, the stiffest of which is hot-stamped, press-hardened martensitic steel used in the A- and B-pillars and in a reinforcement under the toe pan that helps prevent intrusion of the powertrain during a severe frontal crash. Naturally, the design is optimized for the IIHS small-offset test but not specifically for the forthcoming NCAP 15-degree oblique impact test, the full details of which have not yet been finalized. But performance is expected to be good because the new crash rail structure in front now splays outward at the front to better absorb angular and offset impacts.
Overall mass is said to drop by as much as 400 pounds(!), owing in part to a slight reduction in size; the wheelbase and length are shortened by 5.2 and 4.7 inches respectively, height drops 0.9 inch—helping to trim the aerodynamic frontal area—and width actually expands by 0.1 inch. The size drop accounts for around half of the difference, and improved efficiency of the structure, including the aforementioned steel choices and a dramatic increase in the number of welds and structural adhesives employed, help trim another 80–100 pounds. The balance is in things bolted to the structure. Oh, and the shape helps drop the drag coefficient to 0.338.
Overall cargo capacity is virtually unchanged at 63.5 cubic feet, thanks largely to a new middle-row seat design that trades the ability to slide fore and aft for the ability to articulate the seat cushion forward and down when folding it, leaving a lower and more level load floor. Headroom shrinks by just under an inch front and rear, legroom is down a few tenths of an inch, and front shoulder room expands by 1.4 inches.
All the latest safety tech is included or available, including the safety-alert electro-whoopee cushion seat, 360-degree around-view monitoring for parking maneuvers, lane keep assist, and Chevy’s new rear-seat reminder to prevent kids being inadvertently left in hot cars. Keyless entry and starting is now standard, as are projector-beam headlamps and LED daytime running lamps. All the latest connectivity tricks are available, with a 7.0- or 8.0-inch MyLink touch creen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto phone projection, and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot.
Performance should not suffer with the switch to a downsized turbocharged-engine lineup. The new 1.5-liter shares architecture with those in other products but gets its own unique cam timing (later intake valve closure) and an improved turbocharger to boost performance and economy in the Equinox fitment. It is expected to be SAE certified to 170 hp and 203 lb-ft. That’s 12 fewer horses but 31 more lb-ft of torque than the outgoing naturally aspirated 2.4-liter base engine made. EPA figures are not yet available, but we’re told to expect 31 mpg highway. The top-performing 2.0-liter, which we quite like in nearly every other application, should be certified at 252 hp and 260 lb-ft; that’s down 19 hp and 12 lb-ft from the V-6, but remember that this engine will get the added leverage of a nine-speed automatic with a wider gear ratio spread (7.6 versus 6.1), a taller ninth gear (eighth equals the outgoing sixth), and a shorter first gear (see sidebar for nitty-gritty transmission details). This combined with the lighter weight allows the 2.0-liter to match the V-6’s 3,500-pound tow rating and should ensure equivalent or better performance with highway fuel economy estimated at 28 mpg—well up from 24 with the front-drive V-6.
And then there’s the segment-exclusive diesel, which has been on sale in Europe for about three years powering such Opels as the Astra, Insignia, Meriva, and Zafira. It’s from a completely different engine family than the ones in the former Cruze and current Colorado. The European press has dubbed it “the whisper diesel,” so it should be plenty quiet thanks to its extra-rigid all-aluminum bedplate block design and the choice to locate its chain cam drive at the back of the engine, where the transmission helps muffle its noise. The turbo utilizes a variable-nozzle turbine inlet design to reduce lag, and the engine features a cooled-exhaust-gas-recirculation circuit and (new for North America) selective catalytic reduction emissions control system to keep it out of Dieselgate danger. We’re promised it makes the Equinox fun to drive with an output of 136 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque and an estimated highway fuel economy rating of 40 mpg. All three engines will feature auto start/stop.
Even the optional all-wheel-drive system gets a makeover, moving to the driver-selectable GKN design in use on the GMC Acadia. Its system of clutches allows the driveshaft to be disconnected, greatly reducing friction and rotational inertia during those times when drive to the rear is not required.
Through August, sales of the aging Equinox ranked fifth in the segment behind Ford Escape, Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4, and Honda CR-V. Chevy hopes this broadened powertrain lineup and greatly enhanced efficiency will help the Equinox spring forward in those rankings when it goes on sale around about next year’s vernal equinox.
|2018 Chevrolet Equinox|
|BASE PRICE||$24,000-$33,000 (est)|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINES||1.5L/170-hp (est)/203-lb-ft (est) turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4; 1.6L/136 hp (est)/236 lb-ft (est) turbodiesel DOHC 16-valve I-4; 2.0L/252-hp (est)/260-lb-ft (est) turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|TRANSMISSIONS||6-speed automatic, 9-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,350-3,550 lb (est)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||183.1 x 72.6 x 65.4 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.5-10.0 sec (MT est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||Not yet tested|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Spring 2017 (base 1.5-liter, others Summer, 2017)|